Karachi is a paradise for Pakistani street food lovers!
Home to a massive population of some 15 million people (probably a lot more), Karachi is a melting pot of people, food, and cultures from throughout Pakistan and the entire Indian subcontinent.
During my trip to Pakistan, I was thrilled to explore the street food of Karachi, and in this post I’m going to share the best Pakistani street food I tried in one ALL-OUT-ULTIMATE single day street food tour of Karachi, Pakistan.
(Yes, all the food below was consumed in 1 day, apart from the bun kebab…)
Watch the full video:
(Or you can watch it on YouTube here)
Nihari for breakfast
We only had a short time in Karachi and wanted to make every moment count and pack as much Pakistani food into our short time as possible.
So in the morning we began our day for breakfast with one of the heavyweights of all meat breakfast in the world; nihari.
Nihari is a rich meat stew, and while you can eat it all over Pakistani (in Lahore it’s delicious too), many real hardcore food lovers often say Karachi still reigns supreme in the nihari department.
NOTE: Huge thank you to Ali from Pakistani Travel Mart for hosting me on this amazing trip to Pakistan!
We ate nihari at New Dehli Javed Restaurant (often known as just Javed Nihari), a legendary restaurant – one of the most respected places for nihari in Karachi – and it didn’t let us down. The king of all nihari combos is the nalli nihari, bone marrow beef stew, topped in a layer of desi ghee, and rich beyond belief.
One of the best things about nihari is being able to season it with ginger, chilies, and a squeeze of lime. Javed Nihari is an amazing breakfast to begin your street food tour in Karachi.
New Delhi Javed Restaurant
Address: Federal B Area Block 15 Gulberg Town, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan (google map)
Open hours: 8 am – 5 pm, and 6:30 pm – 12 midnight daily
Prices: 1,150 PKR ($8.60) for three plates
Slightly slow from the nihari breakfast, we continued to Burns Road, one of the most well known Pakistani street food streets of Karachi. I think it’s especially popular at night, but we had a full street food tour schedule to complete so we arrived in the morning.
Since I had already enjoyed halwa puri multiple times from Lahore to Peshawar, I opted to try their Arabian paratha (although their halwa puri is very popular).
Very similar to a mataba or martabak in Southeast Asia, and originally from Arabia, it included a thin piece of dough, filled with minced chicken and an egg spiced mixture, then shallow fried.
Mild, yet balanced spices, and fresh from coriander, plus the crunchy dough on the outside, made it a delicious snack.
Address: Shahrah-e-Liaquat, Aram Bagh Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan (Google map)
Open hours: Not totally sure, but we went mid-morning
Prices: 120 PKR ($0.88)
Still on Burns Road there’s a small hole in the wall shop that specializes in matka kulfi.
Kulfi is an Indian sub-continent ice cream made from khoa (similar to sweetened condensed milk). The kulfi is frozen inside a matka, a small clay-cup.
We ordered a number of flavors, the most unique and delicious being pistachio and saffron. The pistachio was my favorite, vibrant and nutty, and the saffron was also very interesting, floral, and undoubtedly vibrant in saffron.
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Well worth a stop, I enjoyed it.
Address: Right next door to Delhi Rabri House
Prices: 50 PKR ($0.37) each
Rabri – sweet pudding
Next door to the kulfi you’ll find Delhi Rabri House, a sweets shop famous for their rabri.
Rabri is an extremely sweet, condensed milk based, kind of pudding. What’s very interesting is that it’s not smooth, but you can rather feel the strands – almost like string cheese to me – within the sweet pudding. It’s honestly too sweet for me, but if you’re a sweet lover, there’s no way you should leave Burns Road in Karachi without trying it.
Delhi Rabri House
Address: Shahrah-e-Liaquat, Saddar Town، Gari Khata, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan (Google map)
Open hours: 8 am – 1 am daily
Prices: 120 PKR ($0.88) per bowl
Bone marrow biryani
From Burns Road we continued to Liaquatabad, an area of Karachi that’s densely populated, and teeming with markets that sell everything you can imagine and more.
It also happens to be home to some amazing Pakistani street food, specifically bone marrow biryani:
If there’s one food I didn’t want to miss in Karachi, it was bone marrow biryani.
Now just for a quick explanation, there are two main restaurants that serve this biryani of wonders, Ghousia Food And Beef Nalli Biryani, which is the most well known, and Qadri Nalli Biryani across the street. The day we went, Ghousia Food And Beef Nalli Biryani was closed for the day, so naturally we tried Qadri Nalli Biryani.
The biryani is cooked in massive pots with kilos of spices and the main star of the show – giant beef bones. When you order a plate, you get a portion of the fragrant rice, topped with a massive bone of two.
Here’s where things get fun.
It’s up to you to get the marrow out of the bones.
You can do this by punching the bone, hitting it on the table or sidewalk, using the handle of your spoon. Whatever works to get those nuggets of melting juicy bone marrow to fall out onto your fragrant rice, do it.
The rice itself was superb, flavored with turmeric, saffron and chilies – the biryani would have been good even without the bone marrow. But add the bone marrow and things just got ridiculously good.
The bone marrow nuggets hold their shape, but as soon as it hits your tongue, it just melts. It was one of the great, and without a doubt the most memorable platter of biryani I’ve ever had.
This is not the only bone-marrow overdose that blew me away in Pakistan!
Qadri Nalli Biryani
Address: Back side of Madni Masjid, 2nd St, Block 6 Liaquatabad Town, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan (Google map)
Open hours: I went for lunch, that seems to be the best time
Prices: They refused to charge us, so huge thank you to Qadri Nalli Biryani
Ninja street salad
Just across the street, but I’m talking a pretty serious, non-stop river of traffic street, you’ll find that Liaquatabad continues, and street food seems to never end.
While en-route to find a special fish dish (more about this below), we stumbled into a cart piled high with vegetables.
He was making a Karachi street salad, raw vegetables, sliced and diced, sprinkled with lime juice and seasoned with masala powder.
The main reason I couldn’t resist trying it is because he was such a friendly man, and his vegetables chopping skills were that of a ninja – possibly the most talented vegetable slicer I’ve ever seen in my life.
In here moments, he could evenly slice up a radish or cucumber in mid-air, all fingers still in-tact.
The salad was awesome with very fresh and vibrant tasting vegetables, sour from lime juice and just enough masala powder to make it tasty.
Note: As a visitor eating street food you do need to be careful and make your own judgements when it comes to eating raw vegetables. I didn’t have a problem with this (or any of the food in Pakistan), but it’s always a potential risk.
Kata-kat is onomatopoeia for a popular Pakistani street food dish, where typically organs (especially brains) are chopped and mixed on a metal hot-plate using a thick metal spatula, making the “katakat” sound.
But fish kata kat is rare, if even available anywhere else.
In Karachi at Mash Allah Fish Kata-kat, they indeed do sell fish kata-kat, and I have to tell you, this is one of my favorite dishes of this entire Karachi street food tour.
This fish fillets were first deep fried, and in order to make a batch, he scooped out a portion of the fish onto the hotplate, added onions, chilies, oil, and masala, and started mixing and chopping in rhythmic motions. In just five minutes the batch of fish kata-kat is ready and he scoops it onto individual serving plates.
Served with chapati and a side of very green herb filled chutney, it was a Karachi street food highlight for me. The fish was amazing, minced up and covered in spices, and that chutney, which was vibrant from coriander, and what tasted like mint, was energising.
MashAllah Fish Katakat
Address: Altaf Ali Barelvi Rd, Block 1 Liaquatabad Town, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan (Google map)
Open hours: We went mid-afternoon and they were open and packed
Prices: Again, the owner refused to take money from us, thank you for the amazing food!
This would not be a Pakistani street food tour of Karachi without a bun kebab.
But on the day we were filming the ultimate street food tour, the restaurant we wanted to try it at was closed. So we came back the next day.
Hanif Super Biryani & Bun Kabab is located in the extremely busy Pakistan Chowk, and they are known for serving one of Karachi’s best bun kebabs, a street food snack that represents Karachi.
A bun kebab begins with a small puck made from lentils and minced meat that’s dunked into a foamy bowl of egg white before being dropped into oil on an iron hot plate. The creation almost looks like a re-designed fried egg, but the white is white egg foam, and inside is the little lentil patty.
Once it’s cooked, the patty goes into a bun with some chutney and onions.
Something about it – maybe it’s the lentil patty, maybe it’s the whipped foamy egg, the bun, the chutney, or most probably the sum of all parts together – something about the bun kebab just works and works extraordinarily well. It all goes together and goes down so easily you’ll want to stand there forever and snack on bun kebabs.
Something about foods in patty formation in Pakistan were just too good.
Hanif Super Biryani & Bun Kabab
Address: Outram Road, Pakistan Chowk, Karachi, Karachi City, Sindh, Pakistan (Google map)
Open hours: 10 am – 10 pm on Monday – Saturday (closed Sunday)
Prices: 30 PKR ($0.22) each
This is not exactly street food, but it is a really cultural Karachi travel experience, and I thought I’d slip this in here.
After wiping our mouths clean from the fish kata-kat, Ali arranged for us to meet up with one of this friends who owns a buffalo dairy farm in Landhi Dairy Colony, the largest daily colony in Asia, and probably the world.
What’s amazing is that it’s so decentralised – so each family owns a certain amount of cattle which they care for themselves.
What’s also amazing is how the colony supports 700,000 – 800,000 cattle, and it’s still right within Karachi.
The highlight was milking a buffalo, and drinking the milk right out of the source – I’m talking literally – squirting right from the utter to the mouth.
Can’t get fresher than that, and it was so sweet.
Dua restaurant – curry and tikka
By this time on this ultimate Pakistani street food tour of Karachi it was 9 or 10 pm and we headed over to Dua Restaurant, I believe the Marine Promenade branch.
Though I was getting sleepy, as soon as I saw the front area seating section, packed to the brim with customers, and the curries and grills going up in a cloud of smoke, I all at once got extremely excited again.
We ordered a mixed grill and a couple of karahis – curries cooked in a rounded metal pan. They were flying on the karahis, scooping in spices, and boiling the curries over insanely high flames. The results were spectacular.
The mixed grill was good, including fish, shrimp, chops and kebabs, all surrounded by rice. We also got two different karahi curries, one mutton and one prawns.
Prawns karahi, especially after having eaten mostly hardcore meat dishes the last few weeks in other parts of Pakistan, was the stand out dish for me.
The prawns were submerged in spices and desi ghee, and the shredded ginger and lime juice provided a burst of freshness.
Our final dinner at Dua Restaurant in Karachi was outstanding and completed an impressive day of Pakistani street food.
Address: Marine Promenade, Block 2 Clifton, Karachi, ضلع, Sindh, Pakistan (Google map)
Open hours: 5 pm – 2 am daily
Prices: 4,840 PKR ($35.45) for everything we order, mixed grill and two karahis
And that wraps up this Pakistani street food tour of Karachi.
For each of the restaurant you’ll find the address and details about the restaurant so you can eat there too.
Again, Karachi is a food paradise, and I was blow away by the quantity and tastiness of so many dishes we tried in one single day.
What an amazing day of street food in Karachi, Pakistan, and I hope you enjoy the food too.